Let’s start with the end. At the end there is the double E. A note so high that only angels can sing it, perhaps prepubescent choirboys, women of course. And of course Morten Harket from A-ha.
The double E is the highest and final note in the chorus of “Take On Me”. This refrain begins with the small A, “Take”, Harket sings on it, “on me…” on G sharp and the middle A, then it moves comfortably in small and large intervals, “take me on…”, higher and higher, “I’ll be gone…”, up to that angelic E: “…in a day or… (Warning:) twooooo!!”
That at the A-ha concert on Wednesday in the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin this E is also at the end, so to speak, at the finish line and lurking, is just as clear to Morten Harket as to his bandmates Pål Waaktaar-Savoy and Magne Furuholmen, and to the entire fan -Audience. Of course the band had other great songs, no question – also after the 80s: Their sixth studio album from 2000 “Minor Earth Major Sky”, which accompanied their first comeback, presented fantastic pieces, especially the brilliant title track.
But the current tour, which is actually the 2020 tour that was postponed due to corona, is called “Hunting High and Low”, like the first, legendary A-ha album from 1985. That’s why everyone in the fairly sold-out multi-purpose hall is clear that this one is damned E sometime will come that it must come.
At first, however, the band seems to be grooving. She does that with solid pieces, “Swing of Things” from the second album, “Crying in the rain” from the fourth, at some point Morten Harket takes off his sunglasses and puts his 60+ glasses on the pretty, grown-up “Bravo” star cut -Face.
And while nature shots of mountains (Lofoten?), lakes (Mjøsa?) and northern lights alternate in the background and make you forget the heat outside, he paces across the stage. Or rather, the tiger does not fit as a power animal. Rather, he coyotes across the stage. Or lofotet.
In between, Harket hardly speaks, he moves little, walks slowly even with fast rhythms, behaves cautiously, like at a sound check. In addition, he seems to have problems with the in-ear monitor and has to constantly hold the little button. Magne Furuholmen, who is on the keyboard, tries his hand at entertaining the audience, speaks friendly words in German, introduces the band and the backing band (drums, bass, guitar, keyboard), and sings – just like Pål Waaktaar-Savoy – bravely With.
It plays the enigmatic The Living Daylights, which Waaktaar-Savoy co-wrote with John Barry for the James Bond film The Living Daylights, and songs from their brand new album, True North, their first in over six years, which will also appear as a music film. They are just as atmospheric, harmonious, coolly longing and beautifully composed as everything from the band.
So the interaction still seems to work – or again. An a-ha documentary film that came out last autumn showed a difficult, psychologically very muddled situation: talented, quarreling musicians were seen in it who didn’t even want to sit on the same sofa anymore.
Morten Harket had stated angrily during rehearsals for an unplugged concert: “I’m just crying around here, I can’t hear my voice up high anymore!” others because his musical contribution, including on “Take On Me”, for which he wrote the characteristic keyboard intro, was not given enough credit in his opinion.
But you hardly notice anything in Berlin. You don’t see any show horses, no happy band buddies who are happy to be back on stage together, no front pigs. But one hears that the harmonic in the music has overcome the inharmonious relationship.
After a break in which the audience could go out for expensive fries, A-ha finally devote themselves to the first record in the second part: “The Blue Sky”, “Hunting High and Low”, “Love is Reason”. “Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale”. And even if the sound rattles a bit at times, even if it’s clear that A-ha is simply not a stadium band, but one whose records you should listen to at home, even if Morten hardly dares to be in the spotlight while singing oblivious – the quality of the songs makes up for all the flaws.
Finally, they play “The Sun Always Shines On TV,” the second big hit, wave, and leave. Which of course only increases the suspense: it’s clear that they’ll be back immediately. And then, finally, the visuals, the rhythm, the signature keyboard melody of “Take On Me” begins.
The audience, their mobile phones out, their hearts enraptured, feverishly: Can Morten manage the E? He can do it. Or not: at the last note of the chorus, he holds the microphone in front of his mouth with both hands and doesn’t sing the entire line, just that note. Maybe that’s pitch correction. But he was allowed to do that.